Netflix is putting out so much content these days that it not only feels impossible to keep up with, it really is impossible — especially if you have one of those pesky things like a "job" or other interests outside of bingeable TV. But that doesn't stop us all from wanting to stay on top of the buzziest new shows and the next big thing. Sometimes, these are easy to predict (anything with "Marvel" in the title is typically a fair bet), but other times shows come completely out of left field to temporarily influence the cultural conversation. Netflix's latest series, The Rain, has the possibility to do just that.
The streaming service's first Danish original series, The Rain is a post-apocalyptic drama that imagines a future in which nearly every person in Scandinavia has been killed by a fatal virus carried in rain. The series starts off in a world just like ours, with a brief glimpse into the mundane teen struggles of high school student Simone (Alba August), whose worries over passing a group exam are quickly overshadowed when her father (Lars Simonsen) shows up and drags her out of school, mumbling vague warnings that everyone should immediately take shelter at home.
As Simone, her 10-year-old brother Rasmus and parents speed out of town, dark clouds gather behind them and the radio begins issuing reports of fatal reactions to the rain. The family is able to make it to a prepared bunker before the rain catches up to them, but before Simone can get any explanations, her father has suited up in protective gear and gone back into the world to try and find a cure. And when an unfortunate mistake leads to their mother's exposure as well, Simone is forced to step up and take care of herself and Rasmus with no guidance or contact with the outside world.
The Rain speeds through establishing all this at a breakneck pace, creating a sense of chaos that mirrors Simone's state of mind in the early scenes. But while we see the world crumble irreparably in just the first 15 minutes of the premiere, The Rain never feels rushed. There are a few logical lapses still left unexplained in the first three episodes made available to critics, but the lushness of this world and challenging character dynamics prove to be more than enough to satiate anything that challenges your suspended disbelief in the show's fictional future.
The Rain's direction, in particular, is exquisite. Each drop of rain is imbued with a heightened sense of suspense and beauty as the camera follows individual drops on their long journey from the sky until they land like pristine bombs on the unsuspecting targets. But when the show jumps forward six years in the season premiere, as Simone and a now-teenaged Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) leave the bunker for the first time, it becomes brutally clear that the rain isn't necessarily the biggest threat to their safety anymore — the other survivors are.
After encountering a battle-weary group who steal their food and plan to leave them for dead, Simone is able to leverage her knowledge of locations of other bunkers (and their food supplies) into securing her and Rasmus spots within their protective company. As the siblings get to know their new companions, led by a former military soldier Martin (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) and the enigmatic Beatrice (Angela Bundalovic), their privilege of having been isolated from the outside horrors for the past six years becomes starkly clear as they see just how much these young men and women have had to endure in order to survive those infected by the rain and those driven half-mad in the wake of society's collapse.
The fallout from the rain has forced Simone, Martin and the others to grow up far too fast, assuming responsibilities no one could ever truly be prepared for. But as the group sets out to not only find ways to survive but search for hope for the future, they learn that many of the things they thought they had left behind — romance, jealousy and compassion — still wield a great influence over their lives. This isn't to say The Rain feels anything like many typical YA dystopian stories, where romance often overshadows the complexities of the world, but that the show is interested in exploring what it is that actually makes survival result in a life worth living.
It's a common question woven throughout many popular dystopian texts, most notably The Walking Dead. Much like the AMC hit, where an individual's actions are seen to have a massive impact on the collective, the moral quandaries of Simone, Rasmus and the others must constantly be weighed against the potential ripple effects throughout the greater group — a balancing act that requires a level of selflessness and rationality that is hard to find in adults in our world, let alone the young heroes wandering in a danger-filled, lawless society.
As is wont to happen in shows like this, the characters tend to make all the wrong choices at all the worst times. But while you'll often find yourself shaking your head in frustration, The Rain does an excellent job clarifying the reasons behind these seemingly bone-headed errors. So although any well-reasoned outside observer would obviously warn against stopping to have lunch in an abandoned Burger King in the epicenter of city overrun by starving, animalistic hoards, what you see onscreen isn't a group of heroes being reckless, but a group of lost youths trying to find some connection to the world they once knew and the people they once were.
Moments like these are both heartbreaking and thrilling, driving the plot forward in tandem while exposing the characters' deepest vulnerabilities. In addition to the day-to-day aspects of survival, Simone and Rasmus are also propelled by the desire to find their father, whom they're convinced holds the key to saving them all. But as the show's early episodes tease, the true key to humanity's survival may actually be Rasmus himself, who may hold a cure thanks to an experimental procedure he underwent as a terminally ill child.
Despite everything The Rain has going for it (which is a lot), foreign language shows haven't always been the easiest sell in mainstream American culture. But after the surprise success of Netflix's first German original series Dark last December, there's clearly an audience on Netflix for foreign, twisty, sci-fi thrillers. And you won't even need a detailed explainer to understand this one!
So while there's no guarantee The Rain will be the next Netflix series to take the cultural conversation by storm (pun intended), it is more than deserving of the opportunity.
The Rain is available to stream in its entirety now.